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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Kuttner: How Dems Can Talk About Inflation

The following article, “Can Democrats Talk About Inflation? Today on TAP: They’d better learn how. They won’t win the midterms just on reproductive rights” by Robert Kuttner, author of  “Going Big: FDR’s Legacy, Biden’s New Deal, and the Struggle to Save Democracy,” is cross-posted from The American Prospect:

How to talk about the economy when inflation remains stubbornly above 8 percent, and workers’ wages are rising at less than half that? The latest New York Times/Siena poll shows Republicans gaining ground based on increasing voter concerns about the economy, which is now the top issue for 44 percent of voters, up from 36 percent in July.

There is a fascinating and nuanced conversation on this subject among some of the smartest Democratic strategists. Pollster and strategist Stan Greenberg has argued at this site that even though Biden has lots to be proud of, it’s a strategic mistake to brag about how good the economy is at a time when so many voters are not feeling so good. Better to point out all the ways that Republicans and corporate elites have sandbagged ordinary people, and what Democrats could do if they had a working majority.

Celinda Lake, once a partner in Greenberg’s polling firm, contends that there are nonetheless a few things worth bragging about, such as the benefits to ordinary families contained in Biden’s $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan Act, notably the Child Tax Credit. This is broadly consistent with Greenberg’s view.

Meanwhile, Democratic strategist Mike Lux has circulated an important memo warning that Democrats can’t duck talking about inflation at a time when Republicans are using it as a campaign cudgel. It’s a point Greenberg has also made at the Prospect site when he wrote:

The NBC poll tests the message that Democrats are actually saying, and it starts with their advocacy for working people on the cost of living: “we need to keep delivering for working Americans by lowering costs, including health care and prescription drugs, and ensuring the corporations pay their fair share of taxes.” That message gives the Democrats a 7-point advantage compared to the Republican message.

Lux, urging Democrats to explicitly address inflation, adds that the five most important points for Democrats to make are these:

1. Wealthy corporations with monopoly power are jacking up their prices, and their profits are going through the roof.

2. Drug prices and health insurance premiums are going to go down because of the Inflation Reduction Act … Republicans have no plan of their own.

3. Seniors will be getting the biggest increase in their Social Security payments in 40 years … Republicans are talking about ending Social Security.

4. Manufacturing jobs are coming back to the United States … and our infrastructure is being rebuilt. All of this will end our supply chain problems and create millions more good jobs.

5. I will fight for the Child Tax Credit, which will give parents up to $600 a month to help with groceries, gas, and housing. And I’m going to pay for it by taxing wealthy corporations and millionaires who are paying little or nothing in taxes right now. My opponent is against the Child Tax Credit.

Democrats should have plenty to say about inflation, connecting it to broader economic themes. By all means, let’s talk about Republicans’ appalling actions destroying reproductive rights and health—but don’t expect that to win the election alone.

One comment on “Kuttner: How Dems Can Talk About Inflation

  1. Martin Lawford on

    Mike Lux wrote, “1. Wealthy corporations with monopoly power are jacking up their prices, and their profits are going through the roof.” I wonder what corporations with monopoly power he is referring to. Some examples of dominant companies whose profits are not “through the roof.” Tyson Foods not only sells staple items but is a dominant player in their market. Yet, their earnings per share went from $2.87 in Q3 2021 to $1.94 in Q1 2022. Their share price went from $82 to $65. Amazon dominates on-line shopping yet over the same period their earnings per share went from $1.39 to -$0.20. Their share price fell from $165 to $114. Johnson & Johnson dominates the market for medical supplies. That is a necessity so they ought to be able to price-gouge. Yet their earnings per share over this period went from $2.67 to $2.55 and their share price went from $163 to $164. Microsoft is a monopolistic supplier of software. Yet, their earnings per share over the three quarters went from $2.48 to $2.23 and their share price went from $331 to $236. If “wealthy corporations with monopoly power are jacking up their prices, and their profits are going through the roof” then which wealthy corporations is Lux talking about?


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